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What is 'parenting time interference?'

When parents divorce, most hope that they can work out a custody and visitation plan amicably and that their co-parent will respect the plan, whether it's strictly codified in a written agreement or it's left more informal. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

A parent can interfere with his or her ex-spouse's parenting time for a number of reasons, including residual anger, a new boyfriend or girlfriend or the actions of the other parent. When you divorce, you never know what the future will bring. That's why it's wise to put a detailed parenting plan in place specifying how much time the child will spend with each parent, how holidays and vacations will be handled and communication about school and extracurricular activities. That way, if a parent attempts to interfere with the other one's parenting time, it's easier to take remedial action.

There are two types of parenting time interference, which is defined as actively disrupting the other parent's designated time with a child. These are indirect and direct.

Indirect interference can be subtle. It can involve preventing a parent from participating in the child's activity or event -- perhaps by "forgetting" to tell them about it. It can also involve interfering with the child's communication with the other parent by phone, email or text. Again, this can be subtle. Maybe the parent tells the ex-spouse that the child isn't home or is asleep.

Direct interference is more overt, but there are variations. It can include anything from failing to drop off the child for a visit or custody time or canceling a planned visit. In the extreme, it can involve taking a child and refusing to return him or her.

Unfortunately, some parents believe that if the parent paying child support is behind on payments, they have the right to withhold access to the child. They don't. Custody and visitation are separate from child support. Children cannot be denied court-ordered access to a parent because that parent isn't fulfilling his or her support responsibilities.

If your ex-spouse or partner is interfering with your parenting time and the two of you aren't able to resolve the issue on your own, your family law attorney can help you. Whether it's a matter of enforcing a court order or strengthening the terms of your current parenting plan, there are steps that you can take to hold your co-parent accountable.

Source: FindLaw, "Parenting Time Interference," accessed July 01, 2016

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